Machiavellian behavior is a way of acting and thinking that values the success of the state or one’s self above the well-being of others. Duplicity, deception and a willingness to do harm are trademarks of the behavior.
In business, Machiavellian behavior describes someone who is willing to exploit the weaknesses of others to get ahead. He is highly competitive and expects others to take advantage of him. He is ambitious and willing to take risks, especially if those risks are likely to cost others instead of himself. He pretends to be more giving than he is and usually only gives to charity if others see it or if it helps him get ahead.
Machiavellian behavior is named for Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th century author of the book entitled "The Prince." The book is considered a political handbook on how to gain absolute control and power through any means necessary. Machiavelli believed that men were inherently evil and it was acceptable to control them through unethical means. He was a chancellor in Florence who prospered through manipulating and deceiving the rulers of other cities. Machiavelli was so nefarious that a form of his first name, Old Nick, became a nickname for Lucifer.